Home South African Red tide causes estimated 500 tons of lobster walkout along West Coast

Red tide causes estimated 500 tons of lobster walkout along West Coast

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The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has announced that it has activated its West Coast rock lobster contingency plan and issued a Situation Red Alert, placing all government role-players in the sector on standby.

Hundreds of thousands of crayfish walked out the ocean at Elands Bay on the West Coast. Locals say they believe it’s an intense red tide. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN – The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has announced that it has activated its West Coast rock lobster contingency plan and issued a Situation Red Alert, placing all government role-players in the sector on standby.

This follows the harmful algal bloom (red tide) that has been developing on the West Coast, Western Cape, which has caused an estimated 500 tons of West Coast rock lobster walkout as of March 1.

Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Red tides are a natural phenomenon in coastal waters caused by a dense accumulation of microscopic algae. Some of the algal species are harmful because they contain toxins which are poisonous to humans.

The department said in terms of the contingency plan it leads, it is supported by the West Coast District Municipality, Cederberg Municipality, SAPS, the SANDF, the Western Cape province and the local communities.

All role-players are working together to assist in rescuing the live lobsters as well as conducting clean-up operations.

Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

“The department will also work closely with the local communities in assisting with the beach clean-up and recovery of live West Coast rock lobster washed up due to the red tide.

“All recovered live lobster will be rehabilitated and will be safely returned to sea once the red tide threat has abated.

“As it is often the case in summer and late summer, there has been a build-up of large red tides in the greater St Helena Bay region over the past few weeks.

“These blooms of phytoplankton presently extend 50 to 60 kilometres, dominating waters in the vicinity of Elands Bay, Lambert’s Bay and Doring Bay,” the department said.

It said these blooms are dominated by a group of phytoplankton known as dinoflagellates and their inshore accumulation, particularly during periods of calm, often leads to their decay and the subsequent development of low oxygen conditions which cause marine mortalities.

Mortalities were observed on beaches along Elands Bay on Wednesday.

The risk of further mortalities is high, with light westerly winds predicted over the next few days.

“Some of these dinoflagellates are also capable of producing toxins that may accumulate in shellfish and may pose a risk to human health.

“For this reason, members of the public are warned not to collect and consume any decayed fish and shellfish washed ashore as a result of the red tide as this could pose a serious health hazard,” the department added.

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